Back when Cath Coffeehouse was still doing business at the corner of 54th and College, the work of local artists used to adorn the walls in revolving shows of varying quality. One of the more memorable artists who made an occasional showing there was Jeremiah Shine, whose energetic landscapes were reminiscent of both cotton candy and Van Gogh. Shiny golden fields and trees casting jewel-toned shadows, monstrous sunflowers in the foreground, clean blue skies with marshmallow clouds: These were the hallmarks of Shine’s work — and they still are.
After Cath closed down, Shine’s work could be seen propped up behind stacks of ceramic planters and overflowing begonias at Habig’s Garden Shop, just two blocks south of Cath on College. The same gloriously hued landscapes celebrated a fictitious splendor — for me, going to Habig’s was as much about Shine’s paintings as it was about choosing bedding plants for our front walkway. Perhaps more.
Shine’s work has found yet another venue, this one further south: In his first official exhibition in quite some time, at least that I’ve been made aware of, Shine’s paintings are now on view in celebration of the 30th anniversary of Franklin Barry Gallery at The Frame Shop on Massachusetts Avenue. Alongside the work of the equally eclectic art of Charlie Spear, Shine’s work hangs in tight quarters in the gallery/frame shop; but its larger-than-life presence makes up for the snug display — paintings spanning nearly 6 feet are stacked salon-style; smaller paintings are hung similarly, floor to ceiling; miniatures are propped up in drawers pulled open on an antique cabinet.
However it is exhibited, Shine’s work exists in a world of its own. So-called alternative spaces are part of the appeal. While Franklin Barry Gallery isn’t exactly unconventional, it isn’t art-establishment either, and delightfully so — the gallery’s rooms are on the small side, and art fills every nook and cranny and numerous display shelves besides.
Shine’s landscapes are curiously unchanged. The yellows are still brilliant; the sunflowers are still giant as trees; the raised fields still undulate like sheet cakes with candy-colored frosting. But there’s something endlessly gratifying about Shine’s work, for all its repetition. Like the yellow brick road, these places are decidedly unreal and yet vibrantly optimistic — offering a kind of solace that is always welcome.
The work of Charlie Spear is curious in another way. Spear is also playful, but with figures — multiple-eyed beings traverse electric-hued moonscapes, at once suggesting cartoons and science fiction. With titles like “Leonardo’s Cap” and “Pull of the Moon,” Spear charts his imagination with an equally unguarded capriciousness that also makes his work sing.
Glimpses of Spring, paintings by Jeremiah Shine and Charlie Spear, is on view at Franklin Barry Gallery, 617 Massachusetts Ave., through April 5. Call 317-822-8455 for hours and information.